Tyler Horn wasn't one of the big names or the stat leaders on the Boise State football team's defense coming into the season. His value was more subtle.
His injury in last week's season opener against Ole Miss made him the most talked about player on the defense this week. Horn left in the second half and wore a large knee brace on the sideline.
Coaches have been mum about his status, but it seems unlikely Horn will be on the field Saturday against Colorado State.
"He had that leadership role," defensive line coach Steve Caldwell said. "Sam (McCaskill) did some good things in there, but they have a lot of confidence in Tyler. He's been around here for a while. (Defensive end Beau Martin) will take over that. Then those other guys just have to step up if (Horn) can't play."
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The Broncos went into fall camp with six experienced defensive linemen and hoping to field a rotation of about 10, the number who played against Ole Miss. Already, they have lost senior tackle Justin Taimatuia for the season. If Horn, also a senior, is out, the Broncos are down to four of those experienced players.
Horn made four tackles, including a sack against Ole Miss. The rest of the team's defensive tackles combined for one tackle.
McCaskill, a sophomore, is Horn's backup and likely replacement. Like Horn, he came to Boise State as an end. He made the transition to tackle during fall camp.
"Tyler's a really good player," senior nickel Corey Bell said. "... If Tyler is out for a while, which we're not even sure, Sam is the right guy to step up. He's been somebody who has been growing underneath guys like Tyler and some of the older guys for a couple years. I think he's ready to get out there and kind of mature and play at a more serious level and more serious snaps."
Caldwell would not commit to a starter in place of Horn. He said junior Antoine Turner, the backup nose tackle, also could play that spot. Sophomore Elliot Hoyte, who played a handful of snaps against Ole Miss, and redshirt freshman Nick Terry, who didn't play, are behind McCaskill at tackle.
McCaskill is an undersized tackle at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, but he held up against Ole Miss, Caldwell said.
"He got better and better as the game went on," Caldwell said. "It was a learning experience for him. When you get in there against the largest offensive line in the SEC, and for him to be able to hold his own in there, I was proud of him."
Other notes and quotes from Caldwell:
— On the line's performance: "I thought we did some good stuff on and off. It wasn't consistent enough obviously and we didn't finish the fourth quarter. That was our big emphasis to them coming out of the game. Hopefully we'll play better — we will play better — this week."
— On playing 10 guys against Ole Miss: "That really enabled us to gain some experience. At times, it helped them get some confidence. We didn't get blown off the ball up front. That showed them we can line up and play. It maybe gives them a little bit more confidence, maybe even in me, because we're playing things just a little different technique-wise than they did before."
— On success early in the game: "They started believing in the first quarter. ... Every series, they started gaining more and more confidence."
— End Rondell McNair, a junior college transfer expected to contribute immediately, did not play against Ole Miss. "(Tuesday), I thought he had a good practice," Caldwell said. "He's coming closer and closer to being ready to play. I just want to make sure when we get him on the field he knows exactly what to do. That position is so important, depending on who you're playing, it's a little bit tougher mentally than inside."
— On Colorado State: "They're good. They're athletic. You can't rush for 200-plus yards and not be good. The two running backs are very good players. The way they block with their offensive line, they kind of get on you and run you to the side and those (tailbacks) just cut and go make plays. We've got to definitely be able to control our gaps."
— Martin (six tackles, two for loss) and stud end Kamalei Correa (four tackles, one for loss) impressed in the opener.
— Boise State didn't have to rotate as much as usual against Ole Miss because the offense held the ball for so long (36:14). In general, Caldwell does not like to leave a lineman in the game for more than six consecutive plays.
Colorado State coach Jim McElwain was recruited to Eastern Washington by former Boise State coach Pokey Allen, who died in 1996. Allen coached the Broncos from 1993 to 1996. One of his players: Boise State coach Bryan Harsin.
The Denver Post has a story on McElwain's ties to Allen.
"When I think about his funeral and all the people that were there, it was something," McElwain told the Post. "You see all the players that he touched, the people that he touched, the kind of guy he was. He'd give you anything. He never asked for anything in return. Players who played for him loved him."
Dave Southorn is going to track the high school performances of Boise State football recruits this season. Find out how they've fared so far here.
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